Fallujah of Upstate NY

In a small town it’s easy to feel like a king. You feel like you can take on the world. It’s when you leave it behind that you feel weak. You feel like a rat in a maze. You wait for the world to come crashing down on you. You feel the need to retreat and wish to hide in the place you’ve known all your life. When you return, maybe you feel like you hate this place, but you’re the king. You can’t leave this behind. This place blesses you with a god-like power. Who could ignore such a gift?

If you’re born in a small-town, you’re untouchable. Rest assured, it’s not unbreakable. It’s ‘untouchable’. No one can mess with you, except for the people you’ve known all your life. It’s this ‘us against the world’ mentality that makes people in a small town so close. Despite the torment we might subject on one another, no one enters this place and messes with one of our own.

Along the same thought, no one tells us how to live. We’re left alone, because outsiders have no right to tell us how to handle our issues. Even so, it’s not really worth it for them to get involved. It would just create a greater mess. Imagine you see a busted bee hive laying on the ground, with its insides torn out for the world to see. Your first thought is never to fix it. You think in preservation: stay away! No matter what, you keep your distance. Those bees are learning how to function in a broken world. This is all they know. They’ve grown accustomed to the new ins and outs of their hive and no one in the world can tell them something different.

Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say you drop your keys in the middle of that mess. Do you dare take back your keys? If you do, run like hell.

You don’t stick your hand into a bee hive, because we have something so special that we fight for… everything we’ve ever known. We know nothing beyond this ancestral wisdom, so to us, it means that much more. If the world comes crashing down on us, it would be easy enough to erase our existence, but none of that matters. The point is, we have no other alternative but to fight. I call it ‘Fallujah of Upstate New York’, although I’ve never been to Fallujah. It just makes me think of an ancient, patriarchal society. I think of one old man kept in charge by culture and tradition, who the others gather around, sworn to protect. They protect him, because that’s all they know. They gather by the fire at night, circling around him, as he tells stories of times past, legends of their people, solidifying their faith and bondage. They’re bound to each other. It’s something so pure it has to be diluted. It takes us back to the time when men were wolves and we hunted in packs. The more things change the more they stay the same.

One of the unmeasured consequences of the fundamentalism that’s spread throughout the Middle East is the desecration and imminent destruction of ancient cultures. The patriarchy is under attack. ISIS wiped out Palmyra. The old ways are gone. There’s no more reflecting on the days of old. The families have been destroyed; the women, wives and daughters have been sold into sexual servitude, while the men are killed. Humanity is more atavistic than our ‘high-culture’ and philosophies make us appear. Hernando Cortes erased the Aztecs with such precision historians didn’t find a trace of their culture for centuries.

It’s like if a new male lion walks onto the Sahara. If he wins, he has to kill the fathers, uncles, sons. He has to impregnate the women. He has to piss everywhere and leave his deplorable stink.

I can’t compare my city to a beehive, although it is fitting. I also can’t justifiably compare it to Fallujah, since I’ve never been. By simple juxtaposition, I picture some ancestral patriarchy, with the ‘pack-leader’ or eldest male at the head of the tribe. He governs and teaches and everyone obeys. Everyone has a role in this system, although beneath him; they function and belong and nothing changes. Nothing ever changes. It’s a god-like power. Maybe there’s not a man in the world that deserves it. We’re  confined to an area the equivalent of a sardine can. We keep it to ourselves, because it’s all we have. No doubt, one of the neighboring cities will invade, not unlike ISIS in Palmyra, and then crush us like bugs. We haven’t the numbers to defeat them. It’s only a matter of time before this great protective bubble around us pops. ISIS is coming from Upstate New York and they want to erase our culture.

29 thoughts on “Fallujah of Upstate NY

  1. I honestly can’t relate this to the small town thing. While I did grow up in a very small town, it was more of a, “stay out of my way!” Type of place. But my synagogue is a very tight place. So many people there would protect the place and people to the death.

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  2. The destruction of ancient culture is something I think about a lot. I’m not from the Middle East nor have I ever been or plan to go now, but some of my favorite historical events & sites lie within its war torn borders. It’s unfortunate and easily overlooked with the extreme numbers of lives lost. Great write up.

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  3. Aren’t you really talking about tribal living? Even in big cities, we have enclaves of cultures, like Spanish Harlem, for instance, or all the Chinatowns. People of like background, language, ancestors?

    You can compare man to bees, but you can also compare him to the lion. The new male may be welcomed if there are too many females in the pride. King Lion will be outvoted, and little lions will insure survival of the species.

    I like your post. I’m becoming more interested in Native American cultures, and products, like hand-crafted moccasins, American-made, to steal the shoe business back from China. Where do all those McDonalds’ cow-hides go, anyway?

    Another question, as long as I have your attention (presumably)? Recently, I’ve become curious about the Native American/African American genetic line in the US. All the talk of racism obscures the more natural affiliation between Native and African tribal backgrounds. The close connection to land and its fruits, the idea of taking only what you need, communal living, with shared overhead. Common housing, kitchens, planting and hunting grounds, for instance. Eating at a common table. Also, many Southern slaves escaped into Native tribes, where they adapted more easily than among Caucasians. Lots of gene-mixing there, perhaps to our benefit. I, for one, feel the Native spirit rising from the marshes.

    There’s a prideful history book that I don’t have time to write.

    When outside invaders trample that delicate eco-balance, without even noticing it’s there, they generate deserved hostility and desire for revenge. However, nothing is served by fighting, not in the long run, because you destroy the prizes in the fight. Show them a better way, I say, by living the good life yourself, appreciating what you have, and thanking the sunrise for being free.

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  4. I’ve intellectually known small towns in America, through the novels I read. This is a little different though, coming from someone who actually lives in a small town, and who doesn’t romanticize the situation 🙂

    I live in the city, and despite the many conveniences, I really don’t like this place. Someday I’d like to live in a small town too, my country version of it, of course.

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  5. I don’t think I live in a truly small town, but it’s seems small to me compared to where I came from. I can relate to what you are talking about. I’ve always felt that where I live is cut off from the rest of the state even though we would be considered a city. We have our own language, our own customs and our own way of life. All the imagery in your piece really spoke to me. Really good job!

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  6. Well written, thought provoking, memory evoking piece. I gew up in a small island, lived in a particular area, went away for 25 years and came back to find it changed yes, but still we are “Roadians” and the new arrivals have o respect that and live up to it.
    P.S. Not gangs or cults but identity. Other areas also had their own identity.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is so well-written and I love the perspective.
    I recently moved to a small town in rural northern California (far, far from the Bay Area) because I fell in love with the charm. But I’m still an outsider. The busy girl from NYC busting into this precious little time-warp town with too may ideas and too little patience. So interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I like this. I myself, while reading, related it to race, culture or ethnicity. The feeling of superiority of a certain group is like a small town in its protectiveness..The impression is that outsiders who don’t live in this town are minorities that want to come in and change the dynamics of it. The townsfolk feel a somewhat unsubstantiated sense of danger perpetuated by the elders. Many elders, who are set in their ways, want to hold on to the customs of yesterday. Embracing the customs of yesterday in the reality of today seem like a much easier alternative and helps to hold on to a true sense of pride.

    There drawbacks to this small town mentality is that while bring protective is the goal, the future generations seeking to integrate into life outside of the bubble can’t function and have a hard time fostering diverse relationships that bring a wealth of wisdom and acceptance of difference. A small town man with a big city mindset is the best of both worlds making the world world a better place.

    Great writing! The ability to make everyone who reads come to different understanding of the meaning is a wonderful thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very well written.

    I’m from New York and have even been upstate to the small towns. I can relate to the picture you describe of it but don’t fully make the connection you made between that town and Fallujah.

    Liked by 1 person

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